Sermoncitos, a family tradition



My father’s grandfather was raised by his grandparents in Kentucky with the dictum “do what you are told to do when you are told to do it”. This served him well in the army, and later in Utah, where he impressed Bishop Dewey with his hard work and integrity. He also impressed the bishop’s daughter, who then followed him into a career in ranching in Idaho. He rejected the ways of the world, remaining obedient to his temple covenants and the promise, “this is eternal lives - to know the only wise and true God, and Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent. I am he”. Grandpa was prepared to live the law of obedience by his upbringing and daily commitments to “receive..., therefore, my law. Broad is the gate, and wide the way that leadeth to the deaths; and many there are that go in thereat, because they receive me not, neither do they abide in my law” (D&C 132:24, 25). He thought he had found a place for his family to inherit, and for him and his wife to retire on a remote ranch far from any town. Little did he understand the needs of elder women. When his wife said, let’s go, he went, and they retired in Brigham City, between the big city of Ogden and her father’s little Deweyville ranch.

My father’s father earned a bachelor’s degree in agronomy in the early 1900s. He delayed his career to serve a mission for the church. When his children were small his career was interrupted by the Great Depression. He worked the railroad in Nevada, and settled in California. In spite of the rough characters he worked with and the rugged life he led, he always remained obedient to Christ knowing that “...they who are not sanctified through... the law of Christ, must inherit another kingdom, even that of a terrestrial kingdom, or that of a telestial kingdom. For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory” (D&C 88:21,22). He lived the law of the harvest, planting and caring for his beloved trees wherever he lived. Later in life he had to obey the law of the cycle of life, caring for his fragile sweetheart in a small house in Sacramento, with room for only a single walnut tree. His obedience to his wife’s needs helped her find peace.

My father went to school mostly in California, met his wife in New Mexico, married in Utah, but raised his children in the Golden State. Those were turbulent times of war, then social revolution with great moral challenges. He was obedient to his faith because he wanted his children to be safe, and he knew that “there is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated - And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated” (D&C 130: 20-21). He accepted many callings in the church in addition to his full time job, investing heart and soul into the fiber and foundation of California. As soon as all the kids were gone, his wife said they must move close to the grandkids, so he retired, uprooted, and followed her to a far land to start a new life. Listening to his wife made it possible to care for her with the help of his children.

Now I am the grandpa. We’ve lived in 18 houses in our 38 years together. Everywhere we go we live such that we are available to serve in the church and community. We imagine ourselves as being generous, but we are really following the pattern set by our ancestors for being blessed by God. “For all who will have a blessing at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing, and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world (D&C 132:5). We have invested deeply in our community and the lives of our friends. Yet, we know that our next calling in life could lead us anywhere. If the pattern is consistent, my wife will be the first to know what we are to do, and I will do what I am told when I am told to do it. May you study the higher law, and qualify for the higher blessings is my prayer.


My father often quoted what his grandfather had learned from his grandfather in the 1850s: “do what you are told when you are told to do it!” I tried to raise the bar for my children in the 1970s; assuming that they already knew their duty, I said, “do what you are doing until you are done!” Athletes and musicians and engineers and artists all know that you have to follow rules to get the results you want. Joseph Smith said in 1843 that “if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.... and when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated” (D&C 130:19,21). No matter how you say it, obedience is a key principle for progress, safety, freedom, and even salvation. “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel” (Articles of Faith 1:3).

We all look to the temple as the highest privilege of our religion. Well, it is a place of higher commandments. In the temple we covenant beyond the law of chastity and tithing; beyond the law of obedience. We covenant to consecrate all our time, talents and energies to building the Kingdom of God. In return, God promises to give us all that He has. As we learn to obey the higher law, we qualify for the higher blessing, and the highest glory in His Kingdom.

Obedience is a universal principle of balance and harmony. In Navajo this path is called Hozh≠–go Iin¡. Those who are not self disciplined in some path are “...tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness...” (Ephesians 4:14). Obedience is a principle of wisdom and freedom, not one of domination. Follow correct principles, don’t wait to be told everything you must do. “For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward” D&C 58:26).

“And we are willing to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days, that we may not bring upon ourselves a never-ending torment, as has been spoken by the angel, that we may not drink out of the cup of the wrath of God... And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters. And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives. And it shall come to pass that whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ” (Mosiah 5:5-9)

Obey the traffic laws and save gas and lives. Obey the rules of your profession to get the job done. Obey the callings and assignments in the Church to serve others and build the Kingdom. Obey the Word of Wisdom to have health. Obey the law of tithing to prosper in your finances. Don’t wait to be asked; step up and do your part by following correct principles. May we be obedient to the commandments and to the whisperings of the Spirit, and thus claim the blessings of Heaven.